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New Delhi: A city court judge who had come down heavily on Delhi Police’s investigation into the 2020 riots is among 11 judicial officers who were transferred by a Delhi high court order on October 6.
LiveLaw has reported that seven metropolitan magistrates and four additional sessions judges were transferred. Additional sessions judge Vinod Yadav, who had been hearing Delhi riots cases in the Karkardooma Court has been transferred to the Rouse Avenue Courts as Special Judge (PC Act) (CBI). In his place, Judge Virender Bhatt, whom ASJ Yadav is replacing, will come in.
Hearing the Delhi riots cases, ASJ Yadav had made observations that lent credence to civil society’s claims of the Delhi Police leading a partisan investigation into the communal violence. On more than one occasion, had Yadav hauled up the police across ranks over bad practice, a lackadaisical probe, inordinate delays in filing FIRs, malicious clubbing of FIRs, and other failures.
The Wire has reported on the particulars of the occasions on which ASJ Yadav made his remarks and the cases in which he made them.
1. On the same day when he was transferred, ASJ Yadav sought a report from the Deputy Commissioner of Police (North-East) over police witnesses lying other oath.
2. In late September, ASJ Yadav dropped charges of arson against 10 people that the Delhi Police had accused of looting shops during the riots, saying the police was trying to cover up a flaw and clubbing incidents of two different dates.
The judge said that he was unable to comprehend how an incident that took place on February 24 can be clubbed with the incident which occurred on February 25 unless and until there is clear evidence that the same rioters were operating on both dates.
3. In early September, while hearing the case of the alleged involvement of one Gulfam, the judge pulled up the police for importing statements from a different FIR while filing charges against the accused.
ASJ Yadav remarked that it was “beyond comprehension” that the prosecuting authority had taken witness statements recorded under FIR 86/2020 and applied them to the case being heard (pursuant to FIR 90/2020).
4. In late August while framing charges against two men accused of being part of the mob which attacked 65th Battalion of the Sashastra Seema Bal during the riots, judge Yadav said that it was “painful to note the poor standard of investigation” in a large number of riot cases.”
The ASJ went on to say that, “…[A]fter filing the half-baked chargesheets in court, police hardly bother about taking the investigation to a logical end”.
The court noted that the case in question was a “glaring example” of the officers’ negligence considering the victims in the case were police personnel themselves.
5. In July, ASJ Yadav dismissed the Delhi Police’s revision petition against an October 2020 order of the court in which police had been directed to register an FIR based on one Mohammad Nasir’s complaint. Nasir had alleged that he had suffered a gunshot injury in his eye when rioters attacked him.
The judge, notably, also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the Bhajanpura police station’s station house officer and his supervising officers and noted that “police have miserably failed in their statutory duties” in the case.
The Delhi court also says that police has sought to create a “defence for the accused persons named in Nasir’s complaint”.
The investigation in case FIR No.64/2020 “has been done in a most casual, callous and farcical manner,” the judge famously noted.
Later in the month, the Delhi high court stayed the imposition of Rs 25,000 costs on the police but refused to interfere with the trial court’s strictures against its investigation.
6. In April, ASJ Yadav’s court observed that the Delhi Police’s senior officers have displayed a “complete lack of supervision” in investigation into several cases of riots and that the practice of clubbing several FIRs into one has been used to “protect the accused” in the violence.
“I do not find any substance in the present petition filed by the State. The investigating agency has evidently been found to be on the wrong side of law. This Court has found in several cases of riots in the entire length and breadth of police stations in north-east Delhi that there was complete lack of supervision of the investigation(s) by the senior police officers of the District,” ASJ Yadav noted.
7. In April, again, ASJ Yadav dismissed Delhi Police’s applications seeking to produce former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid and activist Khalid Saifi, arrested in connection with the Khajuri Khas FIR for Delhi riots, before it in “handcuffs” and sought explanation from Delhi police for moving such plea.
Judge Yadav said, “The instant applications are completely bereft of the reason(s), prompting the senior police officer(s) to take a decision to move such application(s). For want of material/reason(s) in respect of the applications in question, this Court is at a loss to consider the grant of prayer(s) in these applications.”
8. On April 12, ASJ Yadav’s court granted bail to a 19-year-old alleged by Delhi Police to have been an associate of Tahir Hussain and to have injured a man in the riots by noting that the accused had neither been specifically named in the complaint, and nor were the witnesses’ accounts dated.
9. On April 7, the ASJ’s court had pointed out in no uncertain terms, the Delhi Police’s laxity in investigating the burning of the Madina Mosque mosque during the riots.
10. On March 26, ASJ Yadav had expressed dissatisfaction with Delhi Police for not having maintained files in connection with the probe into the desecration of the Masjid.
“It is really strange that the complaint with regard to burning of house of respondent no 1 (Ali) was clubbed with the complaint of one Naresh Chand, being case FIR No 72/2020, PS Karawal Nagar and later on the respondent no 1 was arrested in the same matter, meaning thereby that he is not only complainant in the matter, but also an accused, which is an apparent absurdity,” the court had said on March 26.
11. In February, judge Yadav’s court denied bail to an accused observing that he is accused of having “brutally murdered” an innocent person “just because of the fact [that the victim] belonged to [the] other community”.
The judge was hearing the bail application of Ashish Kumar, who is accused of being part of a “riotous mob” which attacked and killed two Muslim men. The judge observed that the accused could threaten or intimidate witnesses if released,
The judge also said that the number and nature of injuries received by Suleman speaks volumes about the “intensity of [the] dastardly act” committed by the mob.
12. Last year, in late December, ASJ Yadav’s court granted bail to a man in two separate cases related to the north east Delhi riots, saying it did not appeal to the senses that accused, being a Muslim, would rub shoulder to shoulder in such a surcharged atmosphere with the members of an unlawful assembly – which mainly consisted of persons from the Hindu community, and would beat a Muslim boy to death.
He said: “It is very obfuscatory that a Muslim boy would become part of an ‘unlawful assembly’ which mostly consisted of members of the Hindu community, the common object whereof was to cause maximum damage to the property, life and limb(s) of the other community. So, prima facie, the applicant (Aarif) cannot be said to be part of ‘unlawful assembly’ or share ‘common object’ with them on the date of incident.”